Of all the announced new features of the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4/KitKat, one of the cooler ones was a new dialer colloquially known as the "KitKat dialer." It features a revamped UI and includes the ability to search for businesses, contacts, etc. right from inside the dialer. It also features Internet-based caller ID. The name "KitKat dialer," however, is not entirely accurate.
Google Dialer (its official name) is not technically part of KitKat because it is not included in AOSP. It is a closed-source alternative to the regular AOSP dialer, much in the way that Google Play Music replaces the AOSP music app and Chrome replaces the AOSP browser. The name "KitKat dialer" refers to the fact that Google launched it on the Nexus 5, which was KitKat's launch device.
Unlike one of the other new apps introduced alongside KitKat, the Google Experience Launcher - which is a Nexus 5 exclusive - Google actually saw fit to release its revamped dialer application to other Nexus and Google Play Edition phones. Unfortunately, outside of that universe the dialer is unavailable, at least officially. At some time down the road, Google could easily decide to offer it through the Play Store but there's no indication of that happening in the foreseeable future. Until that day arrives, you can install it manually.
Before beginning, you must be rooted and running either an official or custom KitKat ROM on your phone. Google Dialer will not install on any version of Android prior to 4.4.
- Download either the APK file or the flashable ZIP file using the links at the bottom of this post. The APK was pulled directly from a Nexus 5 running Android 4.4.2.
- Flash the ZIP file in a custom recovery, or copy the APK file directly into /system/priv-app.
- If you opted to move the APK file manually, you'll need to set the permissions on the APK to 644 after moving it into its proper folder. Do this either through your file manager app or via a shell.
- Reboot your phone.
Possible Problems And Questions
During our testing on various phones and setups, we encountered a few problems that we feel are worth mentioning, and some questions that some of you will most likely have.
Can this be installed without root?
This question can only be answered with another question. Do you want to be able to make calls? While yes, the app can be installed without root, it requires permissions that are only available to apps that are signed with a platform key or installed in /system/priv-app. What that means in practical terms is that if you install the app without root, the actual searching function will work, but you will not be able to make calls.
I installed the app but the icon doesn't show up in my app tray. What can I do?
If this happens on your phone, the only solution we found was to use Nova Launcher because it has a feature that allows you to run a specific activity within an app. To set this up:
- Within Nova Launcher, long-press on the home screen.
- Choose "Shortcuts"
- Select "Activities"
- Find "Google Dialer" in the list, then tap to open it up, and select "Phone" (use the first one in the list)
This will put a shortcut to the dialer on your home screen. At this stage, you can use this to access Google Dialer. It's not the cleanest solution, but it does work.
Can I disable my default dialer?
The short answer is no. As a general rule, you will need to keep your present dialer enabled in order to receive calls. The long answer is that on some phones you might be able to disable your stock dialer, but on others you definitely cannot. Feel free to try it on your own device and let us know what your results are.
Here are both a flashable ZIP file as well as the lone APK file. If you want to flash in recovery, use the ZIP file. If old-school is more your thing, download the APK and put it in /system/priv-app manually.
File name: com.google.android.dialer-1.01.flashable.zip
File Size: 2.4 MB
File name: com.google.android.dialer-1.01.apk
File Size: 4.8 MB